Mexico City, MEX – Mar. 27, 2018 – The final day of the Longines Global Champions Tour of Mexico City was a scorcher in all senses of the word, paving the way for second leg of the 2018 Championship race.
Following an electric curtain raiser in the heart of Mexico’s capital city, the LGCT and GCL series now look to the magnificent destination of Miami Beach, where the world’s top horses and riders will battle for supremacy just metres from the Atlantic ocean.
The weekend saw two-time Tour champion Scott Brash prove once again why he is one of the best and most respected riders in the world, securing a dramatic victory in Saturday’s LGCT Grand Prix with his superstar 17-year-old mare Ursula XII. The British rider leads the overall rankings at this early stage but a historic third championship title looks a tempting target for Brash has he follows the Tour this year. GCL team Miami Celtics will be hoping it’s a home advantage for their team as they head to leg two of the 16-event series, with another strong result setting them up well on their quest for a place in the GC Prague Play Offs.
With every day on the Longines Global Champions Tour of Mexico City providing world-class sport and spell-binding action, the stakes were raised once again for the big-money concluding 1.55m jump-off class. In a turbo-charged display of horsepower it was Pieter Devos of Belgium who landed a momentous win, just gaining the advantage over Italy’s Lorenzo De Luca and third placed Denis Lynch (IRL).
“I saw Lorenzo go and thought it would be difficult to beat him,” said Devos before galloping round on the final lap of honour of the show. “You had to go full speed from beginning to end in the jump-off, so I’m really happy.”
Sunday’s track was set as a serious test with plenty of jumping efforts, but inviting fences and encouraging lines did little to deter these talented horses and this elite field of 41 riders made the course look relatively comfortable.
Clear rounds came thick and fast but as the faultless rounds racked up to a grand total of 16, a mouthwatering prospect of yet another edge-of-the-seat jump-off unfurled.
“It’s hot today and the horses have already jumped a lot this week so it’s good for the horses’ confidence that they can jump a nice track today,” said Devos after his first round clear.
“I have a fast horse but this is his first outdoor show so I have to keep that in mind, but I think I can go for it in the jump-off,” he added, with incredible foresight.
In a truly cosmopolitan field, three riders came through for Italy, two for Ireland and Belgium, and from destinations as the Czech Republic and Sweden. The packed stands and VIP hospitality area sizzled in anticipation as the first rider entered the vast arena deep in the heart of this vibrant city.
Pathfinder Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) and the gallant Limestone Grey would have been one of the favourites to win this valuable prize and, first away, he pivoted round the tightest of turns and allowed the 12-year-old gelding to open up down the lines. They skipped through the airy double before soaring down over the final oxer for a masterful clear in 36.35s. The Italian speed merchant had set a serious target.
But Miami Celtics GCL hero Denis Lynch (IRL) always loves a challenge and he powered out of the starting blocks on RMF Echo. Pushing and encouraging all the way, the pair scooted down the final line just a fraction outside the Italian’s time in 36.41s.
Kevin Staut (FRA) and Viva de Malica hit three rails before Jerome Guery (BEL) riding Kel’star du Vingt Ponts produced a solid but steadier clear in 37.79s.
There was no chance of the pace slacking as Roger-Yves Bost prepared to stake his claim with Sunshine Du Phare, but an early oxer fell for the Frenchman.
Expectations were sky high as the unmistakable figure of Marcus Ehning (GER) and Cristy entered the ring, but hopes were soon dashed as the slightest touch at the front rail of the Massimo Dutti oxer gave them a four-fault score before Alberto Zorzi (ITA) and Fair Light van T Heike made the same mistake.
Catapaulting out of the starting blocks, Pieter Devos (BEL) and the very careful white-faced chestnut Apart spun round the corners and soared straight to the top spot in 35.65s.
Next in was the previous day’s LGCT Grand Prix champion Scott Brash (GBR), who rode a smooth round on the up-and-coming Hello Shelby, just tapping out a rail on the final oxer.
With four contenders left to go, the pressure was immense. But when the faults came for Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Cassini Z, then Anna Kellnerova (CZE) and Calcourt Falklund, followed by Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) on Idi Utopia and Christian Rhomberg (AUT) with Saphyr des Lacs opted for a steady clear, it was time for Devos and his team to start some well deserved celebrations.
“The turn to the double was really difficult and you really needed a horse with a lot of experience, so I’m just happy my horse did what I wanted,” said Devos.
That concludes a top notch opening show for the 2018 Longines Global Champions Tour and GCL in Mexico City. The Championships now move on to the breathtaking destination Miami Beach in Florida (5-7 April) where the high drama looks set to continue as two-time Champion Scott Brash (GBR) will look to defend his narrow Ranking lead against the world’s very best horses and riders.
Miami Celtics Power to GCL Ranking Lead After Stunning Mexico City Win
Miami Celtics kick-started their 2018 GCL season with a breathtaking win in Mexico City, dramatically snatching victory from overnight leaders Paris Panthers.
Brilliant double clears from the seasoned Denis Lynch and young talent Michael Duffy propelled them to the top of the podium with the Panthers in second and Valkenswaard United in third place. Tension remained high right up until the last rider in the last team as team fortunes rose and fell in dramatic fashion.
Under-25 Miami Celtics rider Michael Duffy said: “This is what we all get out of bed in the morning for – this is the level everyone aspires to be at and these are the best shows in the world, so for me it’s a dream come true. We delivered the goods today, and the plan is to stay at the top!”
Nineteen teams, including several new squads, were on the starting grid for the first leg of 2018 and the stakes are higher than ever. The GCL regular season of 16 events climaxes in Doha followed by the big new showdown at the GC Prague Play Offs in December.
Under brilliant blue skies and the extraordinary giant Mexican flag fluttering over the arena, the team contest got underway with thousands of spectators and guests creating a vibrant festival atmosphere.
The course on the immaculate grass arena at Campo Marte set a serious test with connecting lines and plenty of opportunities to cut corners. A flimsy 1.60m vertical to finish proved costly and heartbreaking for many.
Run in reverse order of merit from Friday’s opening round and carrying their penalties with them, the teams set out in determined mood. The new format saw the two team riders starting directly one after the other to deliver the team score and adding to excitement for fans.
There was disappointment for New York Empire’s David Will and Scott Brash. But the competition came to the boil with the new Prague Lions team with the combination of Gerco Schroder and the fresh-looking Glock’s London and Under-25 rider Anna Kellnerova with the 11-year-old Classic. Their double clear put them back in the mix on a final score of 17.
Shanghai Swans fielded a new rider from their roster, Daniel Deusser with Tobago Z, and they were just caught by the double for a four-fault round while second team rider Shane Sweetnam returned on Main Road and punched home with a brilliant clear for a total of 20.
The temperature soared as the powerful team of the Rome Gladiators upped the pace once again with Friday’s winner Lorenzo De Luca, this time riding Halifax van het Kluizebos, going clear before Abdel Said and the scopey Jumpy van de Hermitage’s eight faults put them on an equal score of 17 with Prague Lions, but ahead in the rankings due to their quicker times.
Miami Celtics and the Berlin Eagles were on level pegging on carried over scores of six. The Celtics’ U25 rider Michael Duffy delivered a clear on EFS Top Contender and was matched by team-mate Denis Lynch and RMF Cadeau De Muze piling pressure on the remaining teams.
Hamburg Giants looked rock solid this week and stood fourth overnight, but ended with 25 on the score card, dropping down the order as the Miami Celtics continued to rise.
Third placed Valkenswaard United, overall winners in 2016, fielded Alberto Zorzi with Fair Light van T Heike — a substitute for Bertram Allen — and Marcus Ehning and Funky Fred. A costly eight faults left them on a total of 12, guaranteeing Miami Celtics a podium spot.
The final results were balanced on a knife-edge. London Knights’ new recruits, twin brothers Olivier and Nicola Philippaerts, were just one point behind the overnight leaders Paris Panthers, but they picked up 12 penalties and victory fell out of their grasp.
With just a fence in-hand, the Panthers powered into the ring, but Darragh Kenny drew gasps as the first fence fell and, when a second rail fell in the Longines double, the Miami Celtics were declared triumphant. However, their speed paid off as they beat Valkenswaard United on time to take the runner up spot.
FROM THE WINNER’s CIRCLE
GCL Co-Founder Jan Tops
“This setting here in Mexico City is unique, historical, but best of all are the people — the crowd is unique, very enthusiastic and very warm, but for everybody. As a rider, as a guest, everybody feels this. As the sport went today I think the new concept is great — going directly after each other it’s much easier to follow, so we’re improving every year. Also today you saw the team which won with a new young boy in the team and that’s great to see. They came from fifth place to win and that shows that still everything is possible and that’s what we want, intensity to the last. It came down to the last rider of the last team, the Paris Panthers did great both days, just getting beaten by Miami, but it was fantastic.
“As the organizer and sport lover, this year there are 10-15 who could win; you just don’t know who is going to win at the end. In every sport in the world, if you look to Formula 1 or soccer, it’s down to three or four teams, but here we have more than 10 and it’s fantastic.”
Michael Duffy, U25 rider of winning team Miami Celtics
“When I got the call a few months ago to be asked to be on a team was a dream come true. So it was a great start and to come here and win on the first event is a great start for the season — let’s hope we can stay there. Teaming up with Denis Lynch was absolutely brilliant because me being a little green at this level I made a silly mistake yesterday, I pushed too much into the double, and luckily enough he gave me a team talking and a slap on the wrist and it was a good education for me and made a massive difference. Thankfully my mistake didn’t cost in the end. This is what we all get out of bed in the morning for – this is the level everyone aspires to be at and these are the best shows in the world so for me it’s a dream come true and what better stage to show yourself on?”
Gregory Wathelet, of second placed Paris Panthers
“Today we were not as good as yesterday. I knew I could have one down but I could not be too slow to stay ahead of Valkenswaard, so that’s why I tried to play a bit for that and also for myself. It worked. The new system is more clear, easier to follow, and you could see that things could change so quickly — we could be the winner today or we could also be fifth or sixth.”
Marcus Ehning, of third placed Valkenswaard United
“For me it’s the first time here in Mexico and I’m really impressed by the show, it’s a really amazing show. Today we were hoping more to get to the lead, but we both had one down in the second round. But at the end it was a good start for us and we still have space to improve.”